Obama renews Cuba property lawsuit waiver
President Barack Obama has informed Congress that he will waive for six months a 1996 law that permits lawsuits against foreign companies that use Cuban property once owned by Americans. The waiver has become routine. Both President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush blocked the ability of U.S. citizens to sue over properties seized after Cuba's 1959 revolution. The provision is contained in the Helms-Burton Act and forbids U.S. officials from restoring full diplomatic relations with Cuba as long as either Fidel or Raul Castro is in charge. Obama wrote Tuesday to members of Congress that the waiver is "necessary to the national interests of the United States and will expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba."
Former astronaut to head NASA
The Senate on Wednesday confirmed retired astronaut Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden as administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in time for the space agency's 40th anniversary celebrations of the Apollo 11 moon landing and just hours after the launch of space shuttle Endeavour. Bolden, who has flown in space four times and was an assistant deputy administrator at one point, will be the agency's first black administrator. The native of Columbia, S.C., will also be only the second astronaut to run NASA in its 50-year history. Vice Adm. Richard Truly was the first. Bolden was the pilot of the shuttle flight that launched the Hubble Space Telescope into Earth orbit in 1990.
Napolitano backs Real ID measure
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who as governor of Arizona opposed tough new federal requirements for driver's licenses, endorsed legislation on Wednesday to replace the 2005 law with a more flexible and less costly version. The new legislation, called Pass ID, maintains some features of the so-called Real ID law, which required states to verify the identity of people to whom it issues driver's licenses, including verifying information they submit, like Social Security numbers and birth certificates. The Real ID measure, prompted by concerns about terrorism, was passed without Senate hearings as an amendment to a spending bill and has been contested ever since.